RBAC’s Youth Engagement practitioners offer insight into the world of engaging youth to take control of their community and their lives.
RBAC sent a few of its workers involved in youth engagement work to a Youth Engagement Learning Exchange that included representatives from our neighbors to the north HOSTED and MCC. There are are a lot of implications with this work. A few examples are creating an alliance with the Othello neighborhood making good on the intention of CURBED a document describing a neighborhood plan between Rainier Beach and Othello neighborhoods. Another is the …… Made possible by support from the Communities of Opportunity Emerging Practices fund it also gives light to the use of social media as a tool to change the perception of one’s neighborhood from the inside out. While the report is still in draft form we want to share some of the thoughts RBAC’s youth engagement practitioners shared. The following information was collected from participant answers to the question:
How does your project or organization currently engage with youth to participate in activities that promote community connection?
Rainier Beach Action Coalition (RBAC)
- RBAC has operated programs specifically focused on youth engagement for about 10 years, while also engaging youth in earlier community activities such as the Back2School Bash.
- RBAC Programs are organized into four Action Areas: (1) A Beautiful Safe Place (including public safety and the arts), (2) A Place for Everyone (inc Economic Development), (3) Lifelong Learning, and (4) Growing Food to Develop Healthy Industry
- Corner Greeters is a public safety program that reclaims five areas identified as crime “hotspots,” or sometimes referred to as “pearls,” by holding biweekly “pop-up” events rotating through the locations that engage the community in fun activities, resource and information sharing, and surveys
- “Pop-up” events are preceded by scouting activities in which youth meet with local businesses and other stakeholders
- Other youth engagement programs include the Farm Stand, Beach Five, and YATTA Rising, in which youth participate in specific project and learn about system change.
- Farm Stand Fellows undergo significant training in customer service skills and gain knowledge about where food actually comes from
- The FreedomNet citizen journalism program is RBAC’s longest, continuously running youth engagement activity and was launched to help shape the public narrative, establish RBAC’s presence, and document accomplishments and milestones in near-real time.
- The Rainier Beach News Wire is a Twitter list of entrusted community sources including youth who have been given individual accounts, published on RBAC’s Web site for access by those who do not use social media such as Twitter.
- FreedomNet is written into youth job descriptions as an intrinsic component of their work and not a separate job.
Representative Challenges and Successes
- Challenge of developing connections/relationship with families
- Challenge of balancing monetary compensation with other types of incentives
- There has been a 30% reduction in crime since the start of the Corner Greeter project under the A Beautiful Safe Place for Youth (ABSPY) initiative, which also includes organizations such as King County Boy’s and Girls Club and Safe Passageways
Emerging Best Practices
- Youth engagement in establishing processes and owning the work
- Incorporating scouting, or onsite conversations with local businesses, the week before a “pop-up” event.
- Developing a pathway for continuing to develop more focused skills for youth aging out of a program.
- Everyone trained in a standard set of skills, such as citizen journalism, with assignments rotated weekly to maintain the freshness of near-real-time documentation and constantly build capacity for expansion
- Youth mentors/program coordinators
- “Business” social media accounts with built-in safeguards
- Community-based, youth-driven “credentialing” program for “certifying” youth in a variety of skills that they have identified and are deemed relevant to career development.
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